Monday, April 30, 2007

Understatement is beautiful

This whole Boy George thing got me thinking of an old "Behind the Music" episode that featured a 1986 interview with Boy George's brother, David O'Dowd. This was the interview in which David pleaded that George get help for his heroin addiction.

Now if such a TV show were to air on this side of the pond, you can get that Geraldo Rivera or whoever would have flashy lights and promise an explosive interview. But my recollection of this show was somewhat different. I can't find a transcript online, but the show went something like this:

(Two men sitting on folding chairs on a barren set with a black background)

INTERVIEWER: (coughs) And what is your name?

DAVID: (pauses) My name is David O'Dowd.

INTERVIEWER: And who is your brother?

DAVID: George O'Dowd. Boy George.

INTERVIEWER: And what did you want to say about your brother?

DAVID: He' heroin.


DAVID: You're welcome.

OK, maybe I exaggerated slightly, but it had that understated feel that was best realized by Monty Python's version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, as set as a very small boy's school.

Headmaster: 'Tis time the seven Smith brothers had brides. Fetch me Smith Major.

(Enter Smith Major in short pants.)

First Smith: Sir.

Headmaster: 'Tis time you and your six brothers were married.

First Smith: Thank you, Headmaster.

Headmaster: Fetch me your six brothers, that the seven brothers may be together.

(Smith Major rings handbell. Three bays enter and stand next to him.)

Boys: Behold, the seven brothers.

Headmaster: Right, I'll see Watson, Wilkins, and Spratt in my study afterwards.

First Smith: (has to be prompted, then declaims badly) But where shall we find seven brides for seven brothers?

Second Smith: The Sabine School for Girls.

Third Smith: Yes, and it's the Annual Dance.

Headmaster: Fetch hither the seven brides for seven brothers.

(Enter two schoolgirls.)

Two Girls: Behold the seven brides.

All of the lines in the play were delivered in a monotonic voice. Not quite a larch, but beautifully understated nonetheless.

Of course, the best example is when you go, half-asleep, to an Easter sunrise service and mumble "He is risen indeed" when it's clear that YOU haven't.

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